Harare police today arrested two Zimbabwe Independent journalists on allegations of publishing falsehoods following the publication of a story by the newspaper on alleged private talks between the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the country’s security chiefs ahead of elections expected sometime this year.
Raphael Khumalo, chief executive officer of Alpha Media Holdings, publishers of the Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, said the publication’s editor Dumisani Muleya and senior reporter Owen Gagare were arrested after handing themselves to the police.
Khumalo said detectives visited the newspaper’s offices Monday and summoned the two journalists to report to the local station.
Police spokesman Charity Charamba said the two were facing charges of publishing falsehoods in violation of the Criminal Law Codification Reforms Act. It is still unclear when the two will appear in court. But according to the online edition of the privately-owned weekly, the two have been charged with criminal defamation following the publication of the story in its edition of May 26.
Reports late Tuesday evening indicated that the two journalits were released after being questioned for more than 7 hours.
Chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Editors Forum, Brian Mangwende, condemned the arrest of the two journalists saying their detention was an attack on press freedom and called for their immediate release.
The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper claimed in a story published two weeks ago that MDC-T defense secretary, Giles Mutsekwa, met Army General Constantine Chiwenga, major generals Martin Chedondo and Douglas Nyikayaramba to find ways of averting a coup and allay fears that the securocrats would be removed from office in the event that Mr. Tsvangirai wins the pending presidential ballot.
Ironically, Mutsekwa, who is also the national housing minister, is quoted in the independent story confirming he was spearheading the alleged secret talks with the service chiefs.
General Chiwenga is dismissing the paper’s claims as outright lies while Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri announced recently that the police will swoop on journalists who write stories about security forces and the service chiefs.
Several securocrats such as Chiwenga and Chihuri have openly declared their support for President Mugabe while Chedondo and Nyikayaramba are vowing not to salute Mr. Tsvangirai if he wins the vote because he has no liberation war credentials.
Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa says there is nothing wrong with securocrats dabbling in national politics.